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It is estimated that forests globally sequester some 25% of the carbon emitted by world-wide fossil fuel combustion. The comparable figure for the EU15 is 15%, for Sweden 145% and for the UK 2%. As a high carbon-emitter the UK could improve its position through increased tree cover. Some 17% of Scotland is tree covered (c.f. 7.6% in England ). The Scottish Forestry Strategy aims to increase cover from 17% to 25% by 2050 – implying the planting of approximately 10,000 to 12,000 hectares of new woodlands per year. Provided sites are carefully selected to avoid excessive loss of soil carbon, the growth of the forest resource could be used to transform land areas that are currently sources of greenhouse gas emissions (including methane from livestock, nitrous oxide and CO 2 from soils and CO 2 from fertilizer manufacture) to sinks. This role is not explicit in the current Forestry Strategy, highlighting that policy in the forestry sector is relatively underdeveloped in terms of climate change. If there is an increase in Scotland ’s forest cover from 17% to 25% over the next 15 years, and carbon reserve management is implemented in existing forests, then carbon removals by forests could rise to over 2 million tonnes of carbon per annum by 2030 and to over 2.5 million tonnes of carbon per annum by 2040. Wood fuel output from Scotland ’s forests could make an additional contribution of 0.6m to 1.5m tonnes of avoided C emissions per year. A new research programme on 'Carbon dynamics in forests' at Forest Research will combine knowledge of growth processes, yield modelling and life cycle analysis under predicted scenarios of climate change.

At the current rate of establishment (less than 8,000 hectares per annum) Scotland’s forest area will be well short of the current Scottish Forestry Strategy’s aspiration of 25% woodland cover by 2050 (Tipper and McGhee, 2005).


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